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6                             THE GAY GENIUS

with the certainty that the different phases all came to pass, whether or
not the fault was in the stars.

Su Tungpo was born in 1036 and died in 1101, twenty-five years
before the conquest of northern China by the Kins and the end of the
Northern Sung dynasty. He grew up under the best emperor of that
dynasty, served under a well-meaning but over-ambitious one, and fell
into disgrace when an eighteen-year-old idiot ascended the Dragon
Throne. The study of Su Tungpo's life is, therefore, at the same time
a study of national degeneration through party strife, ending in the
sapping of national strength and the triumphant misrule of the petty
politicians. Readers of All Men Are Brothers are acquainted with the
quality of this misrule when good, honest men, in order to avoid tax-
gatherers or evade the "justice" of rapacious officials, one by one took
to the woods and became the much:beloved forest heroes of that novel.

At the time of Su Tungpo's youth there was a brilliant galaxy of
scholars gathered at the court of the Chinese emperor. At the end of
the dynasty there was none left. During the first persecution of
scholars, and the purging of the censorate and packing it with under-
lings by the illustrious state capitalist Wang Anshih, there were at least
two dozen distinguished scholars and men of integrity who were will-
ing to suffer for their convictions. During the second persecution,
under the idiotic boy emperor, the good men were mostly dead or soon
died in exile. This sapping of national strength had started in the
name of "social reform" to prevent "exploitation by private capital", "for
the benefit" of the always lovable common people of China, by an
ardent believer in himself. Nothing is so dangerous to a nation's
destiny as a misguided but opinionated idealist. Su Tungpo the poet
and human philosopher pitted his common-sense against the logic of
Wang Anshih the economist, and the lesson he taught and China paid
for we still have not learned today.

In such ardent zeal for social reform Wang Anshih inevitably
regarded any means as justifiable by the end, including purging of all
dissenting opinion. A holy cause is always a dangerous thing. When
a cause becomes holy, the means used to achieve it inevitably becomes
vile. Such a trend of things could not escape Su Tungpo's perspicacious
mind and was a little too much even for his sense of humour His path
and Wang Anshih's crossed; their clash determined his whole career
and the fate of the Sung dynasty.

Neither Su nor Wang lived to see the outcome of their struggle and

the conquest of China by barbarian hordes from the north, although

Su lived long enough to see the terrible results of the widely-publicised

"social reforms".  He lived to see that the "peasants" whom Wang had

, so "loved" had to flee their homes, not during famine or flood, but